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AI research bombarded with criticism for judging criminals based on facial features

A research team in Shanghai has stirred up far-reaching controversy after releasing a paper indicating that computers can tell if a person will become a criminal based merelyon his or her facial features.
In the paper, titled “Automated Inference on Criminality using Face Image,” Wu Xiaolinand Zhang Xi, two researchers from Shanghai Jiaotong University, say they ran computertests using 1,856 images of real people. According to Wu and Xi, the tests revealed “somediscriminating structural features for predicting criminality, such as lip curvature andinner-eye corner distance.” They believe that the tests have produced evidence for “thevalidity of automated face-induced inference on criminality, despite the historicalcontroversy surrounding the topic.”

The article soon went viral online, with many researchers criticizing the findings asdiscriminatory and irresponsible.
“We were unlucky to release our paper around the time when Trump won the [U.S.presidential] election. Some emails from the U.S. criticized us, saying that the U.S. alreadyhas enough trouble and we should not add fuel to the fire. Some Chinese netizens, on theother hand, suggested that we help the Commission of Discipline Inspection [to catchcorrupt officials],” Wu told Thepaper.cn during an interview.
Denouncing criticism of the research as “discrimination based on phrenology,” Wustressed that he has no intention of supporting discrimination based solely on facialfeatures.
“We simply found some correlation between facial features and certain social behaviors. Imyself am against discrimination based on facial features … Our research can also serve asevidence to fight discrimination,” Wu added.
According to Wu, the team’s current goal is to deepen the research, though they have noplans to put it to use in the field of criminology.
“The relationship between ethics and scientific development is hard to explain. Shouldnuclear physicists be responsible for damage caused by nuclear bombs?” Wu mused.

Source: People’s Daily

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